Jim Siergey: The Pizza Caper

July 16th, 2017

The wife came home with a pizza from Costco. If you’ve ever been to Costco, you can guess how large it was.

It was the size of a wheel from a conestoga wagon. If we had three more we could head out west over the great prairie.

It was a cheese pizza so we decided to doctor it up. I went out back to our bit of a herb garden and plucked off a big handful of basil leaves. Then I sliced up a few tomatoes.

I also sliced a bit of my finger, which was to be expected, as I am an accident waiting to happen, but it was only a nip. However, I did need a band aid and the only one I could find was a purple one.

I felt like Crockett Johnson’s Harold.

Despite my wound, I arranged the basil and tomato slices upon the vast cheeseness of the manhole cover-sized pizza, thus transforming it into (Voila!) a margherita pizza. Since it was large and floppy, my wife, to be on the safe side, took over for me and deftly inserted it onto the grate that extended from the gaping maw of the oven and closed the door.

I, being the more mathematical minded one in our partnership, set the timer.

The minutes ticked by and when the timer sounded I rushed to the oven and opened the door to check on how our dinner looked. It looked good. Its edges were golden brown and the bottom was firm but not over-baked.

I pulled out the grate it sat upon, grabbed the piece of cardboard that had accompanied it and using a fork to guide it, successfully slid it upon the board, as I had done so many times with so many pizzas before.

haroldandthepurplecrayon

I felt just like Harold…

 

Now all I had to do was transfer it to the counter top that was a foot away and a foot and half higher in elevation.

Halfway through the process the cardboard, being of an inferior quality, began to bend under the weight of the steaming hot disc. This caused the steaming hot disc, that is to say, the pizza, to slide off and despite my attempts to alter the situation, head straight for the floor.

Fortunately, it landed bottom-side down but half of the gargantuan pie folded over onto itself. In my efforts to pick it up, it slid around even more and a few more cracks appeared, making it look like a miniature earthquake had hit it.

I was finally able to scoop it up and plop it onto the evil cardboard that sat, haughtily, upon the counter. I then proceeded to clean up the still steaming tomatoes and bits of cheese that lay upon the floor.

I did all this, if you recall, with a bandaged finger. If nothing else, I’m a trooper. In this case, a trooper scooper.

I then turned my attention to mending the wounded pizza. I unfolded it and attempted to rearrange it but it was to no avail. It was the ugliest pizza I had ever laid eyes on.

There was a section that still looked like a margherita pizza, with undisturbed tomatoes and basil with cheese that hadn’t seismically shifted. These two slices I gallantly served to my wife.

The rest of the pizza wasn’t much to look at. Tomato slices and basil leaves were gone. Cheese had slid around and off the crust even taking with it much of the tomato sauce. (The floor got most of this)

It looked like a shaved poodle.

If one only ate what looked good, one would go hungry, wouldn’t one? So, I ate what I could aesthetically stomach and used half a bottle of wine with which to wash it down.

Let us now never speak of this again.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Stellaaaaaa

 

 

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Jim Siergey: Stellaaaaaa

July 5th, 2017

Kindergarten, somewhere in the 1950s.

Miss Neiswender, an ancient lady in wire frame glasses, was the teacher.

We were standing up at attention, hands over hearts ready to pledge our allegiance to the flag.

On the table in front of each one of us was a glass of milk and on a plate, a single golden flower-shaped Salerno Butter Cookie.

As we recited the pledge in monotone rote, fidgety I began toying with my cookie. I slipped a finger through its center hole.

Miss Neiswender brought our patriotic chant to an abrupt halt and began to reprimand me. The entire class in silence stared.

I was the center of attention.

marlonbrandostreetcarnameddesire

“Hey, there, Stella, baby…”

 

A beautiful little blonde-haired girl, her name may have been Sandra, standing next to me spoke out.

“But, Miss Neiswender, he was just putting the cookie on his finger, like a ring.”

Her honey-like voice ended her statement by going up an octave for emphasis on “a ring”.

That sweet little girl defended me.

And that was just the beginning. Other little girls would help me out by taking turns tying my shoes for me.

That ended when I moved to another school in second grade.

However, I seem to have always had girls, no matter what age, wanting to help me in some way, shape or form, throughout my borned days.

Is it part of their nature or is it because they sense the Blanche DuBois in me?

Little do they expect the Stanley that also lurks within.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Peru Two

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Randolph Street

July 5th, 2017

1DSCF1526Brown Line One–Chicago

 

2DSCF1523Brown Line Two

 

3DSCF1522Brown Line Three

 

4DSCF1530Brown Line Four

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2017

jonrandolph.com

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Jim Siergey: Peru Two

June 29th, 2017

In my last post I wrote about my trip to Peru, Indiana to find my wife’s great grandparent’s house and grave sites whereupon we also discovered the grave site of renown song writer Cole Porter, with whom my wife’s grandmother had gone to school.

Yes, the little town of Peru, Indiana was indeed the birthplace of Cole Porter, known more for being the toast of Broadway in the 1920s and 30s. However, yet another famous person, although not as celebrated as Mr. Porter, also hailed from Peru.

Ole Olsen, from the famed vaudeville act, Olsen and Johnson, was born in Peru, Indiana way back in 1892. The duo is best known for their stage show, Hellzapoppin’, which was also made into a film in 1938. Ole is not, like Cole, buried in Peru but there is an Ole Olsen Memorial Theatre in town.

Lest you think all Peru has to offer is Cole Porter and Ole Olsen along with their respective museum and theatre, you would be oh so wrong.

This little town in the middle of Indiana also houses The International Circus Hall of Fame museum. It is a fascinating place. Besides the photos, miniatures and displays generally found in such edifices, it also has a Big Top arena where there are occasional performances, trapeze and high wire acts with a Big Top Band and, of course, clowns.

Some of you may ask why there is a circus museum in, of all places, Peru, Indiana. Well, there’s also one in Baraboo, Wisconsin. For some god-only-knows reason, Peru and Baraboo were the winter quarters for many circuses.

Circus people. Go figger.

The one thing of note (no pun intended) that I learned and never tire of repeating whenever the subject of a particular musical instrument arises is that, in circus jargon, calliope is pronounced cally-ope.

See what you can learn from reading this tripe that I write?

SevenPillarsThe Seven Pillars of Peru…

 

However, the main reason I have written this Peruvian sequel is to relate a near-mystical experience my wife and I experienced while there.

My wife’s grandmother and her husband traveled a lot and took many photos and kept scrapbooks of their travels. Some of these go back to the teens as well as the 1920s and beyond. There is one photo of a pastoral scene in Peru where a group of ladies and gents were picnicking near a river. Model T cars could be seen parked nearby. In the background was what looked like a series of caves.

At the motel we stayed at, we perused the various brochures on display and saw that one of them sported a photo that matched that of Grandmother’s, sans the people and Model-T’s.

It was called “The Seven Pillars”.

They are a series of buttresses and alcoves located on the Mississinawa River that were carved into the limestone over centuries by wind and erosion. Long ago, it had been a gathering place for the Miami Indians where they would hold their council meetings. As time went by it became a nature preserve and a popular picnic area.

It was uncanny that the image on the brochure matched this old photo we had. Of course, we had to find it, a search which turned out to be easier said than done.

We followed the directions printed on the brochure but when we came to where X had marked the spot, we could espy nothing. We being the only vehicle on the road made it easy for us to turn around and ever so slowly drive back and forth past the area where the object of our quest should have been located but there was no sign of anything, just lots of overgrown brush.

Finally, we decided to park our car on the side of the road and dive into the wilderness. As we thrashed and crashed our way through the brush, we were met with a spectacular sight—-the very site where the photo had been taken!

It was indeed an idyllic spot. Across the river were the sandstone bluffs, looking mighty and mystical. What was once a picnicking area was now overgrown but there was a little trail upon which we traipsed. It was surrounded by reeds, trees and wildflowers. The background music provided by buzzing bees and chirping birds almost sent us into a swoon.

Our trip to this town to find a house not seen since childhood ultimately provided us with much more than we expected.

Peru, Indiana. Who knew?

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was I Get A Kick Out Of Peru

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Jim Siergey: I Get A Kick Out Of Peru

June 24th, 2017

The ninth of June was the 126th anniversary of the birth of Cole Porter.

For those who are not hip to the Cole-man, he was the toast of the town in the Big Apple and the golden boy of Broadway in the 1920s and ‘30s. A witty lyricist who coined the word ‘De-Lovely” and wrote many a hit musical containing such memorable tunes as Anything Goes, Love for Sale, Begin the Beguine, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Night and Day, I Get a Kick Out of You, I Love Paris, Don’t Fence Me In, You’re the Top, Miss Otis Regrets and paragraphs more.

In honor of the day, I drank my day’s quart and a half of coffee out of my souvenir Cole Porter mug from Peru, Indiana.

That’s where Mr. Porter was born.

My wife’s grandmother was also born in Peru and, in fact, went to elementary school with Cole. She eventually moved to Chicago but her son, my wife’s father, spent many a summer there with his grandparents. My wife, as well, often visited her great-grandparents there when she was a child.

One day, a few summers ago, my afore-mentioned wife and I decided to make a pilgrimage back to the old sod.

It was about a three hour drive from Chicago. We booked a room and sat in the motel’s lounge drinking coffee as we figured out how to find her grandparents’ house. All she remembered was that it was near train tracks and not far from the roundhouse.

Her grandfather worked on the railroad as an engineer.

coleportergrave

Don’t fence me in…

 

Someone sitting at a table nearby spoke up. He was a native Peruvian who had returned for his high school reunion. Overhearing our conversation, he realized that the area we were discussing was where he had grown up. He told us that it wasn’t very far from where we now were.

He suggested that we check the old phone books and censuses that were housed in the town museum. A block away was a storefront that housed the Wabash County Historical Museum, which also housed a Cole Porter exhibit, so we entered.

Small town museums are great. They’re not as hoity-toity as “important” museums can be. They are much more down-to-earth in their historical displays of town life. We browsed the toys and teapots, military memorabilia, Native American artifacts and other historical documents. Cole Porter’s black and chrome 1955 Cadillac was majestically enshrined behind velvet ropes.

Not only that, we found a bookcase full of directories that went decades and decades back in time. Found therein was the address of Cindy’s grandparents. It was walking distance away, so away we walked.

Addresses were not always visible on the houses so we asked a passing mailman if he knew where the one with our address stood. He pointed across the street to an abandoned and a bit dilapidated house and added “It’s for sale, if you’re interested.”

We went over to it. Of course, it was much smaller than Cindy remembered it but she was also much smaller when last there. We peered in the windows that we were able to peer through and, my, the rooms certainly were small.

Railroad tracks ran by the back of it, just a few feet away. No protective fence or anything, just bare tracks, free and easy, whistling in the wind as they curved right behind the old homestead and kept going for another block right into the roundhouse.

It was like stepping into another age.

We found the old homestead so now we had to find the grave sites. The cemetery wasn’t hard to locate and neither were Great Grandma and Great Grandpa’s plots. As we read the names and dates on their tombstones, we looked up into the distance where we espied some odd-looking structure that looked as if it needed our closer inspection.

So, off we went to inspect closer.

It was the grave site of Cole Porter. On an upraised grassy plot sat two rows of rounded stones. These rows sat in deference to a tall stone structure that kind of resembled a large marble tongue, extended skyward.

Was the rascally songwriter and free spirit, in death, giving one ever-lasting razzberry to the world, a lingual salute that will last night and day?

Well, anything goes.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Roundtable

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Jim Siergey: Roundtable

June 15th, 2017

Donald Trump’s recent cabinet meeting, where he went around the table and listened to each cabinet member’s evaluation of and true feelings about Himself, inspired me.

I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps lately and in need of a good ego boost so I gathered some family and friends around the dining room table and asked them to deliver their evaluations of and feelings toward me.

I was going to go so far as to wear a red tie but I didn’t want to unfairly influence anyone. So I stuck with my Pierogi Fest T-shirt from Whiting, Indiana. I admit that I was using it as a subliminal message to infer what a world traveler I am. It was a toss up between that one and my Save the Spindle T-Shirt from Berwyn.

Seated around the table were several people who have known me for most or, at least, a good deal of my life. My wife was there as she was a bit too slow in coming up with an excuse as to why she couldn’t attend. My sister was there because I said there would be cookies. A few old friends rounded out the group.

One was there because he happened to stop by inquiring about a loan…and when he would see any repayment. Another came because I said there would be cookies and another because I said there would be beer.

I neglected to add that there would be beer if he brought any but plenty of nice cold water would be available.

Everyone was seated with their glasses of Lake Michigan Straight and a plate of Dollar Store cookies within reach in the center of the table so I began.

“So, my dear, my light of my life,” I purred to my wife, sitting on my right, “What do you have to say about the years you have spent as my partner in this long and winding road we have traveled together on through the pitfalls and pinnacles of…”

spindlecermak

Gone but not forgotten…

 

“Must you?” she interjected.

“Wh-What do you mean?”

“Why must you embroider things so? It takes you forever to get to the point. In fact you rarely do get to the p—”

“I’m sorry, but…”

“Excuse me! You’re interrupting. How many times have I told you how much that bothers m—”

“Many times, but I—”

“You just did it again.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Besides your constant interruptions and your beating about the bush, you mumble. You’ve spent so much by yourself over the years that you forget that you need to enunciate when you’re speaking to another human being.”

“Imsrybut…”

“WHAT?”

“Um, so, that’s your evaluation? I’m a long-winded, mumbling interrupter? Are there no positive aspects of my being?”

“Oh, there are plent—some. In all, you’re…okay.” She said with a shrug. And a smile.

I quickly turned to my sister.

“Surely, being your big brother, you have learned from me and I have earned some admiration.”

After putting down the cookie she had just bitten into and inspecting her tooth to see whether it had cracked or not, she replied.

“My memories of you are filled with the many times you ended your pouring of a glass of milk for me by extending it upon my hand and up my arm and how you would stick your finger into the middle of my cupcake and tell me that I now have a donut and how you would…”

“NEXT!” I quickly hollered.

“Wasn’t there supposed to be beer?”

“Thank you. Next?”

“You’re a nice guy, Jim, but regarding that money, I could really…”

“Oh, my, just look at the time. I’d like to thank you all for coming h—”

“Hey! I didn’t get to say anything yet.”

“Oh, alryt. Gohed.”

“WHAT?”

“I said go ahead.”

“Ah, okay. These cookies suck.”

As you can see, my round table ego boost turned out differently than did Donald Trump’s.

I should have worn the tie.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Loving Joan Baez

 

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Jim Siergey: Loving Joan Baez

June 12th, 2017

We had tix to see Joan Baez at the Chicago Theatre.

Performance was scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. so at 6:30 we headed off to the Irving Park stop on the Brown Line to ride the el downtown.

Figured we had plenty o’ time.

The last time we saw Joan in concert was at the Auditorium Theatre in 1971. Just her and her guitar.

It was amazing.

This time she was joined by Mary Chapin Carpenter and The Indigo Girls. “Four Voices” it was called.

While waiting, virtually alone, on the platform, occasional announcements would be made informing us that there were delays.

As time went by, with the same announcements being made, the platform filled with people.

Finally, at 7:00, an announcement was made that the Brown Line was neither running north or south because of a fire on the tracks at Western.

We clambered down to the street, pondering what to do next. I saw a Yellow Cab and flagged it down.

Miracle of miracles, it was empty!

We got in. I told the driver we needed to get to State and Lake. Then some young guy opened the door as if he was going to get in the back seat with us.

He instructed the driver to put his valise in the trunk and the driver obliged. Then the kid opened the front door, telling the driver to move stuff over so he could sit down.

JoanBaezplaying

Joan Baez–alive as she could be…

 

I asked him where he was headed. Clark and Lake he said. I said okay, thinking that we could split the fare.

Suddenly he exclaimed, “Hey, I’m in the wrong cab. You’re not the one I called. Pop the trunk!”

He exited, leaving the passenger door open. Driver closed it, got in, turned and looked at us, saying “I thought he was with you.”

Never saw the punk before in my life.

What with Rib Fest and the Cubs game recently ending, along with it being a beautiful but hot Sunday, traffic was stifling.

I directed the cabbie to take Damen north and get on the Drive at Montrose because Irving Park would be a madhouse.

As we crept eastward on Montrose, hope of getting to the show by 8:00 was dwindling.

But, another miracle!

Lake Shore Drive was wide open and we flew downtown. He dropped us off right in front of the Chicago Theatre at 7:30 whereupon I gave him a generous tip.

A throng of people were trying to fit into the few doors that were open. I felt like I was part of a mass of ground beef being funneled into a sausage grinder.

Inside, purses were looked into and everyone was wanded by security and we scrambled up three flights of stairs to our seats in the middle balcony.

At 8:10 the quartet entered from stage right to thunderous applause.

They opened with Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. They took turns singing the verses. Joan took the last verse and in the closing line of “You just sorta wasted my precious time”, she did a dead-on impersonation of Bob Dylan.

It brought happy tears to my eyes.

From there on over the next two hours, Joan danced, played the kazoo, the harmonica and the guitar, which she still plays beautifully.

Her voice is deeper than it was in her prime. There were only a couple of instances where she reached the angelic heights of ethereal beauty that she was known for but she can still bring it.

Poignantly, she sang Woody Guthrie’s “Deportees” as well as what she said was the first song she’s written in eight years, a little ditty about the current occupant of the White House.

In her patter, she mentioned that people think of her as an optimist, always the seeing the glass as half full.

“It’s been half full, it’s been half empty, sometimes it’s been upside down with water all over the table but it’s never stopped me from doing all the things that I’ve done in my life.”

More thunderous applause.

Carpenter and the Indigo Girls performed their songs and they were great. I was familiar with them as artists but not with their oeuvre but most of the audience was. It was a great crowd.

They ended their set with The Times They Are A’Changin’ and after a long standing O, re-entered to do a couple of more tunes, concluding with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

Joan Baez, 76 years old and still doing it and still doing it well.

“I’m supposed to be a bad ass”, she said at one point, “so I guess I have to try and live up to it.”

To our relief, the Brown Line was running again and we headed home with our hearts feeling a little lighter.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Majahua, Man!..

 

 

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